Saturday, November 20, 2004

Degenerative democracy

The New York Times > Opinion > Op-Ed Colmunist: No More Sham Elections
...The U.S. electoral system looks increasingly dysfunctional, and those of us who used to mock the old Soviet or Iraqi 'elections' for lacking competition ought to be blushing.

In Arkansas, 75 percent of state legislative races this year were uncontested by either the Republicans or by the Democrats. The same was true of 73 percent of the seats in Florida, 70 percent in South Carolina, 62 percent in New Mexico.

And Congressional races were an embarrassment. Only seven incumbents in the House of Representatives lost their seats this month. Four of those were in Texas, where the Republican Legislature gerrymandered Democrats out of their seats.

American democracy is somewhere between 35 (civil rights movement), 100 (women vote), 140 (emancipation) and 300 (first revolutionary war) years old. During those times there've been periods where it was pretty sick, and periods where it was quite healthy.

This is not one of those healthy times.

I wonder if this is merely a historic cycle, or a consequence of applying technology and technique to elections between two cynical and adaptive parties. In a system designed for two parties, wouldn't the combination of adaptability, research and information technology ultimately carve the population into balanced sets?

Of course a very cynical party could always take power and then change the rules, or exploit flaws in existing rules, so that we had an effective one party system.

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